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Brains rule over brawn in ‘Survivor’ final five

Sometimes on "Survivor,"  the physically strong people get rid of the weaker players. But this season, the weak outlasted the strong.  By Andy Dehnart
/ Source: contributor

Sometimes on “Survivor,” the physically strong people get rid of the weaker players. But this season, the weak outlasted the strong.

With the exception of Boo, who the others have identified as a physical threat, “Survivor Fiji”’s remaining five players do not count physical strength among their primary assets. Instead, they are smart players who’ve maneuvered their way past their tougher competitors, and past many rough obstacles. They’ve all earned their shot at $1 million by outlasting the others, while a few have outwitted their competitors and a smaller number have outplayed everyone else.

This season began as the haves versus the have-nots, but ultimately became a battle of brains versus brawn. One by one, the strong fell. Now, those people, including Edgardo, Rocky, Mookie, and Alex, are among the jury members who will vote during Sunday’s finale.

First, two (or perhaps three) of the five remaining cast members will join the jury. Some are likely candidates to have their torches snuffed out before that final Tribal Council, while others have barely anything standing between them and a check for $1 million.

Yau-ManChances of winning: Very, very high.

Yau-Man has consistently surprised his fellow players and viewers with his smart strategy and engaging personality. At 54, he was the second-oldest player this season, but both his body and his mind have made him seem half his age. Since the tribes merged, he won individual immunity once and the reward challenge four times, three times as part of a team. He’s also been playing the game with hidden immunity ever since he teamed up with Earl and found the idol.

Yau-Man’s conversations with the camera reveal that he’s always thinking and is acutely aware of all possibilities, and he uses that to his advantage. When Mookie violated Yau-Man’s privacy by searching through his bag and then tried to blackmail him with that knowledge, Yau-Man stood up to him and then turned that action against Mookie, who the tribe voted out immediately.

By partnering with Earl, Yau-Man has a solid alliance that could very well take him to the final three. Once there, the jury will see a candidate who’s played well and hasn’t done much to annoy others. Unless they’re blind with rage, or unless he takes a wrong turn sometime soon, they’ll probably reward him with $1 million.

EarlChances of winning: About as high as Yau-Man’s chances.

Earl has been the apparent mastermind of most of this season’s strategy. He’s managed to assume that role without being obnoxious or arrogant, the way “Survivor” masterminds, going all the way back to Richard Hatch, tend to act. But Earl has occasionally stepped aside to let others suggest and implement strategies, and he also partnered with Yau-Man, a respectable, trustworthy ally.

The time Earl spent on Exile Island finally paid off, and he now has possession of the third hidden immunity idol that this season has seen. With one final opportunity to use it, he’ll undoubtedly make it to the final four. Earl’s only real problem is ending up in the final three or two with Yau-Man; his friend’s age and more outgoing personality might pull votes in his direction. Is Earl capable of turning on his friend? Will he be rewarded for his quiet yet key leadership? Or will his friend turn on him?

DreamzChances of winning: Only in his wildest dreams can he win.

Dreamz’s strength in the game has been his ability to switch sides or reveal information at exactly the right moment. His game play has, at times, seemed baffling, but it has nearly always paid off in his favor. When it hasn’t, he’s managed to spin it in his favor. Dreamz’s strategy, however, will probably be his downfall, too. He’s not really trusted by the other players, although he does offer them a valuable swing vote, at least for now. If Dreamz ends up in the final three, he will face a jury of people he’s betrayed in some way, and that tends to only earn jury votes if that person is seated next to someone who hasn’t really played the game well. But there’s an excellent chance at least one of the more trustworthy players — Earl, Yau-Man, or Cassandra — will end up there with him.

Dreamz’ biggest problem, however, is that he is now burdened with the “Survivor” car curse. While Dreamz didn’t win the reward challenge, Yau-Man offered him the car, and he accepted. The price: If Dreamz wins immunity when there are just four players left — and when the hidden immunity idols can no longer be played — Dreamz said he will give his immunity to Yau-Man. That will, of course, make him vulnerable, and allow the tribe to vote him out. Yau-Man admitted that was the plan because he sees Dreamz as a threat, which Dreamz knows, but that probably won’t change much in the remaining days.

BooChances of winning: Boo who? No one’s scared of the possibility Boo might win.

Boo is the last remaining big strong man, and that makes him target number one. His only hope is winning immunity, and having won it the past two weeks, he’s certainly capable of that. Still, considering the four people he’s left with, there are few scenarios that would make a Boo win likely.

Boo wasn’t a member of the “four horsemen” alliance and actively worked against them, and now they are a large part of the jury, so he doesn’t necessarily have their votes. But that’s also what’s kept him in the game, since he aligned himself with the non-alpha males. His one strategic move with that group, however, did not pay off; he convinced the alliance to split their votes between Mookie and Alex in the event that one had the idol, but that resulted in Alex voting for Mookie and saving himself, which wasn’t the alliance’s goal. Thus, Boo fell out of favor, and is left between the two groups, and is unlikely to become friends with either group at this point.

CassandraChances of winning: So-so.

While Cassandra wasn’t particularly welcomed into her first tribe by everyone — Stacy was particularly hostile for no apparent reason — Cassandra bonded immediately with her new tribemates when the tribes were shuffled. But in the season’s penultimate episode, Cassandra turned against two of those people, Yau-Man and Earl, in an attempt to get rid of her biggest competition, Yau-Man. With that, she may have severely hurt her standing in the game.

But she may be saved by the fact that the other two people aren’t exactly best friends with Earl and Yau-Man. Boo is still a bigger physical threat, and Dreamz still seems less trustworthy. That said, if Cassandra ends up in the final three with Earl and Yau-Man, or with just one of them, she’ll have a difficult time arguing that she’s done anything more than outlast everyone else, while they have unquestionably outplayed their competition.

is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.